Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women, and stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer. Stroke affects more women than men each year and the mortality is much higher for women, so it is important to understand the unique risk factors that increase a woman’s risk of stroke. As part of a special issue of the journal Stroke, investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston reviewed the risk factors for stroke that are specific to women including; hormone levels, hormone therapy, hormone birth control, pregnancy, the age of menarche and the age of menopause.1
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving your brain tissue of essential oxygen and nutrients. Studies have found risk factors for stroke in both men and women include:
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy drinking
- Cigarette smoke
- Drugs such as cocaine and meth
- Blood pressure greater than 120/80
- High cholesterol
- Cardiovascular disease
- Family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attach
Risk factors specific to women include1:
- Early age of menarche (less than 10 years old)
- Early age at menopause (less than 45 years old)
- Low levels of DHEA
- Oral contraceptives
- History of pregnancy related complications such as gestational diabetes, hypertension and preeclampsia
Many women will have one or more of these risk factors and will never suffer a stroke but it is critical for health care providers to know and understand these risk factors so they can better inform and monitor their patients. Women who have several risk factors should understand the risk of stroke, the symptoms of a stroke, and they should be carefully monitored.
Approximately 85% of strokes are ischemic strokes and atherosclerosis is the most common cause of ischemic stroke. If the arteries become too narrow due to plaque buildup, the blood cells may collect and form a clot. A larger clot can block the artery where it is formed (thrombotic stroke) while a smaller clot may travel until it reaches an artery closer to the brain (embolic stroke). When the arteries to your brain become narrow or blocked, the required blood flow is reduced resulting in stroke. Other causes of ischemic stroke are clots due to an irregular heartbeat or heart attack. The professionals at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute in Costa Rica use stem cell therapy to treat the symptoms of stroke.
Stem cell transplantation uses healthy cells to promote the repair of damaged cells and regeneration of healthy and functional cells to repair injured tissue.2 The therapeutic effect of stem cell transplantation in patients with cardiovascular disease including stroke, may be due to the paracrine effect. The theory is transplanted stem cells repair damaged tissue by releasing factors that promote regeneration of healthy stem cells, reduce inflammation, promote the growth of new blood vessels, inhibit cell death, and reduce hypertrophy.2 Studies have shown mesenchymal stem cells improve cardiac function in patients who have suffered from a stroke.
Along with lifestyle changes, stem cell therapy at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute may help improve the symptoms of cardiovascular diseases including stroke.
Lifestyle changes that can help improve cardiovascular disease include:
- Quit smoking
- Following a healthy diet low in salt and saturated fat
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Daily exercise
- Control high blood pressure
- Control diabetes
- Control high cholesterol
- Practice good hygiene
Contact the Stem Cells Transplant Institute to discuss the potential benefits of stem cell therapy.
- Stacie L. Demel, Steven Kittner, Sylvia H. Ley, Mollie McDermott, Kathryn M. Rexrode. Stroke Risk Factors Unique to Women. Stroke, 2018; STROKEAHA.117.018415 DOI: 1161/STROKEAHA.117.018415
- Hare JM, Fishman JE, Gerstenblith G, DiFede Velazquez DL, Zambrano JP, Suncion VY, Tracy M, Ghersin E, Johnston PV, Brinker JA, et al: Comparison of allogeneic vs autologous bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells delivered by transendocardial injection in patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy: the POSEIDON randomized trial. JAMA 308: 2369-2379,